Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No Excuses: A Blog on Running, Meat, and Reality T.V.*

No Excuses: A Blog on Running, Meat, and Reality T.V.*


*Discretionary Note:  Before reading this blog, please be aware that I am writing from my values, beliefs, and truths.  You may not agree with all I have to say, which is fine, and I don’t mean to offend.  If simply ask that you remain open-minded, take what you want out of it, and leave the rest behind for now.




We all make them.  Often without even knowing it.  Most common is the famous “I’ve just been too busy!”.  It’s our minds most common defense against things we don’t want to do, things we fear, or just a way of making ourselves miserable as we carry on with work and instead of enjoying life with our friends and family.


However, this blog is about 3 main excuses: Being too tired or in too much pain to run, eating meat, and watching reality T.V. (and engaging in other sorts of junk media).


To be honest, I’ve never had too much trouble with the first (even as a kid I had a passion for testing my limits and seeing how far I could push myself).  But, as running is often an overarching focus in my blogs, I thought I should include it.


Just as running is so easy to start, just lacing up a pair of shoes (I know, I know, some people run barefoot) and heading out the door, it’s just as easy to stop.  All you need to do is to open the door into your mind a tiny crack to negative thoughts and they will come flooding in. Actually, it is almost inevitable that they will creep in, but you don’t let them control you…


Again, I could go on for awhile about this, but I’m going to focus on ultras. 


Ultra-marathons are not simply tests of endurance; they are extreme tests of mind over body.  In ultras, it is a given that you will be tired, you will be in pain, that you will have visions of yourself sleeping in a nice warm bed or in the front of a buffet line.

The key is not lot let these thoughts rule over your mind.  How tired are you? How much pain are you really in?  Too tired to take another step?  Too tired to reach that goal you’ve put in months of hard work to reach? Pain is often an excuse too.  I am not talking about an injury, I would never advise sacrificing your body just to finish an ultra.  On the other hand, stopping because of pain that is really soreness in your feet, and aching body…well that’s an excuse.  Your negative thoughts have taken over your mind, making a seemingly rational decision that it’s okay to stop and go put on your fuzzy pajamas and you can race another day.  But what’s going to change in that next race?  The pain will not. It’s still going to hurt like hell. Even puking is an excuse to (unless it leaves you severely dehydrated/dizzy/malnourished).  I’ve seen people puke and run…it happens when you shove a variety of food down your throat and run at the same time. The key is, besides remaining positive, is to figure out why you “endure”    Is it for the beauty of the journey?  Your love of nature?  To make yourself stronger? To show your strength?  Because you love breaking past your own barriers? (For the t-shirt, food, or beer at the end are all fine too, they just shouldn’t be your key motivators).

Just don’t let your excuses stop you from reaching that finish line.*


For me, running a 100 mile ultra-marathon isn’t just about running 100 miles…I have always viewed trail running as a metaphor for life (and vice versa).  Among many other things, it is a chance to look back at my former self when I was weak, when I let the negative voices tear me apart, and prove how strong I now am (and positive...smiling is not only my favorite, it is key to my race performance*).  It’s a chance to show others, especially women, how to be strong too.

*if you’ve never seen “Elf” I apologize as you’re probably a bit confused right now.  But please watch “Elf”.  It’s the best movie ever. Seriously.)


*There are reasons that make dropping perfectly justifiable. Also, I will make the extra exception for the top runners, where it make sense for them to, at times, save their legs for another day.


Okay, the next part of this blog may be more difficult to read for some.  I’m going to talk about two things that a norms in American daily life, and state my personal beliefs against them. During just the past few months, I have almost eliminated both from my life...but before that, they were part of my normal day.  But they made me stupid, they made me go against my morals, and I made excuses for myself. 


Animals, meat. Meat, animals.  Are they different, or the same?


The answer is obvious.  Meat is a dead animal.  But how easily we separate the two!


I accepted this myth in my mind for 24 years (then again, for the majority of my childhood, I didn’t have the mental capacity to ponder this concept.  I simply at what was fed to me, or I had to sit at the table all night).  However, the more I read, the more I talked to people, the more I dug deep into my inner self, I had to ponder the question:  Is it right to eat animals?


Here are/were my inner arguments for pro-meat:

-”People have been eating animals for centuries.  I think Jesus ate meat, so it must be okay.  Plus, God put animals on earth, and hasn’t sent a plague to punish any of us carnivores, so I think we were meant to eat them.” (That really is how my mind works. Scary, I know)

-”As a high mileage runner, I need to get high quality protein from animals. My body will never recover otherwise!”

-“I’ve been battling iron-deficient anemia for years.  If I don’t eat meat, it’s sure to plummet.”

-“It would be a lot harder to eat out.  I can already see my mom rolling her eyes at me.”

-“Chickens are stupid.”


With this came what I chose to ignore. I chose to ignore the life in animals, how much I adored touching the babies soft hair at petting zoos, the beautiful sight of cows grazing on long drives through the country.  I ignored that giving milk was a huge benefit to human life in itself (no, I am not vegan), that chickens laid eggs full of protein,  and that Babe the pig, was just a story, that real pigs can’t feel.  Never mind I never ate the pork at the pig roast because I could actually see the cooked body.(I always had a guilty feeling when eating beef or ham, and only either on occasion.) I chose to ignore all the steroids put in animal food, and how they could affect my body.  I did try organic chicken drumsticks once, and then never again.  They seemed to be oozing with blood.  I ignored the books I read on the brutality of slaughterhouses, doing my best to block out the whines and screams playing in my head of the animals.  I would never eat a deer, or a moose, or anything like that…ignoring that I ate others just like them, and ignoring that it would be normal in other countries to eat dogs and cats. That thought makes me cringe.

I ignored that these animals might not have the brains humans do, but they have hearts. I felt entitled as a human to eat my fellow oxygen consumers.


Was it simply enough that God put animals on earth for us to enjoy as beautiful, living beings?  Or, that they exist simply to breathe and eat, possibly enjoy the company of their fellow herd/flock/etc, not unlike humans (despite our somewhat over-complicated existence)?


Finally, over the past year or two, I began to open up my mind and deal with the difficult questions.

I looked at my own values, morals, beliefs to get to my core.  And, I looked at the facts presented to me.


I realized I was making excuses that led me on an easier route, not necessarily the right trail.


Besides debunking some of the above myths and getting over that my mom would again look at me like I’m crazy, which is not that on common, I accepted what science and others were telling me: You can be vegetarian and a healthy runner.  I have quite a few friends that are vegetarians and great runners.  One had even suffered from iron-deficiency anemia and was having no problems, just taking iron pills as she had when eating meat.  In addition, I had extremely low iron when eating meat!  As for the protein, like most pro-veg articles say, it is super easy to get sources of protein from food other than meat: peanut (butter), almonds, tofu, veggie burgers, beans, hummus, lentils, eggs, etc and it’s found in a lot of whole wheat products. I’ve never had a problem cooking a meal (stir-frys, Mexican, and veggie burgers are weekly staples).  It also helped to read Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run too (and bit dejected when I read a few weeks later Marshal Ulrich’s promoting meat in his book).


More importantly, it feels right.  I no longer have a guilty conscience of an animal being slaughtered because of me.  I started with a month test period to test it out and see if I still felt healthy at the end.  I did, and did decently well at BT50k.  (Steve was supposed to do this with me, a past vegetarian, but my mom talked him into a pulled pork sandwich…). I’ve now been a vegetarian for 3 months, and feel great. 


Still, I realize this still this was MY choice and what is right for me.  I would never tell someone what I think they should do, because I don’t have the right to think for anyone. I will also keep an open mind, listening to different facts as they come.


With that, I do encourage everyone to think…

“Think” is actually the title of legal analyst, Lisa Bloom’s book, which encourages women to think for themselves in a world that is filled with junk, and, telling women what to do. (Recommendation: read this book! And thank you Sandi for recommending it to me!).


This brings me to my next excuse:  Engaging in reality T.V. celebrity gossip, tabloid magazines, etc.  I was guilty. Big time.  Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of So and So, Keeping Up with the Kardashians (and Khloe and Lamar), watching silly celebrity gossip shows on E!, and all the one I told myself were okay because they were on TLC…ha!  I did realize these shows did not do anything to stir my intelligence, but simply let these be my guilty pleasures, like the peanut butter I scoot out of the jar with my finger.  But worse.  These didn’t even leave me satisfied, just sleep deprived as they all went past my bedtime.  Anyway, it seemed if everyone else was watching it too, there was always someone else to chat with about the latest episode.


I kept making the excuse.  It was my time to relax and turn my brain off.  Thursday nights was my time to bond with Steve as we watched the new episode of Jersey Shore.  The worst was probably “I feel better about myself after watching Bravo/MTV/E!.”  What!?!?!  Was I comparing myself to a drunk, plastic, painted, rich, selfish reality star?  Was I no better the Snookie!?  How did I stoop so low!? What was I thinking!?


Hence again the problem.  I was not thinking.  I was absorbing junk.


I don’t exactly remember when I started cutting these shows out.  I think it was sometime at the end of last summer.  Sandi’s blog probably helped when she stated how much clearer her mind was during her month of camping, and when I read how important sleep, not sitting on the couch, is for recovery.


Some shows were easy.  Real Housewives just became too much for me.  It was the same thing over and over, just in a different state, and I got bored.  Even more so, other shows just left me feeling disgusted and the guilt continued to seep in.  And, how was supposed to adamantly stand my ground, telling Steve’s kids that the “characters” on Jersey Shore were not role models or to be mimicked in any way, yet still watched  them get drunk and hook-up with strangers?


My excuses were definitely not exemplifying the person I wanted to be, nor making myself a worthy role model. 


A famous athletic quote is “No Excuses”.  Two words, nothing more, because there isn’t any need.  Everyone get is the meaning.  In every game, meet, or event, a true athlete leaves it all out on the floor, track, or field.  Win or lose, there is nothing more to be done, because all was given. 


What makes life different, less important than a sport?


Sounds pretty silly when put that way, but that’s what I was doing.  I was letting excuses belittle my life.  I was not living life to the fullest.


I watched my last episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians a month ago.  When I heard a rumor about the mom and OJ Simpson, I had to fight the urge to find out more.  I feel much better now that I didn’t give in, just I don’t give into pain during a race. 


Somewhere, I know I will slip in the three areas I have mentioned.  I will read the headlines of a tabloid magazine in the grocery line, eat soup cooked in chicken broth, and whimper during a 100 miler…


What I will not do is let my excuses become who I am. 


I have let myself become conscience of them so I can fight them.  I have acknowledged them so I will not be prevented in being the person I am meant to be.  I can honestly live my life with confidence, exuding strength and compassion, not just for myself, but others. 


Now I can talk the talk AND walk the walk.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Rachel!!! YES!!! As I've slowly been reading your blogs, starting with the older ones first and trying to get 'current' - :) - this one hit me like a ton of bricks. I've been wondering where you stand on diet (still true? *smile*).... I'm almost to this point... I'm quickly agreeing and putting into practice healthier dietary practices.... I just feel better; and, the ethical/moral side of eating meat is pretty compelling from so many angles; thanks to Sage and Sandi as well, I've been heading towards a plant-based diet to be sure. As to media - YES!!! - you are so right on target... there is so much trash, that we really can and SHOULD do without.... yikes!! What a bizarre reality, the degree to which so many people are absorbed in reality shows, the effect being so little meaningful interaction with real people, with friends; the lack of just getting outside. I truly don't mean to take on a judgmental attitude - I really try to have a more humble, gentle attitude - but I do have to agree that media and celebrities have gotten WAY out of control. One thing I do fairly regularly - drive with the radio OFF; go a weekend without following ANY news... and you know what?? I typically haven't missed anything critical. The world still turns round and round; my family is still what's important, along with friends and being the best person I can be.
    Thanks again for your transparency and openness!!! So nice to see; so refreshing. Hope you have a great week ahead! :)